Program to focus on birds

Natural historian and author Joel Greenberg will be at The Mountain Institute’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center on Spruce Knob Monday at 7 p.m. to present a talk titled “Hope is the Thing with Feathers: Americans and Three Birds.”

Greenberg has more than 25 years experience working on natural resource related issues in the Midwest. Currently a research associate of both the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum, he has authored four books including the newly released “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.”

For the past four years, he has been a leader in Project Passenger Pigeon which aims to mark the anniversary of the species’ extinction. He is co-producing a documentary, “From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.”

His presentation Monday will look at three birds, each representing a different outcome at the hands of people. With a population in the billions, the passenger pigeon was the most abundant bird in North America, if not the world. Yet within a matter of decades, unrelenting human exploitation drove it to extinction.

The Kirtland’s warbler has since historical times bred in a very limited range and within that tiny area could only breed in jack pines of a certain height and age. In addition, they are heavily parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds. In 1971, there were less than 200 singing males but today, although it costs a million dollars a year, we now know how to maintain healthy populations.

The whooping crane was in even more dire straits, having declined to 23 living individuals twice. Extensive conservation work has been devoted to saving this charismatic species, but its fate is still an open question.

The public is invited to attend. There is no cost but donations to The Mountain Institute will be accepted. For more information, call Kellee Waddell at 304-567-2632.